2SLGBTQ+ Ontarians’ experiences with social assistance: Conducting preliminary research to nurture partnerships in the area of 2SLGBTQ+ poverty and health


Project Summary:

Two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (2SLGBTQ+) people experience both health
disparities and economic inequities relative to their heterosexual and cisgender (non-trans) peers.
Although poverty is widely understood to be a critically important determinant of health, few studies
have investigated the relationships between poverty and health in 2SLGBTQ+ populations, or the
possible social and structural relationships that sustain these inequities. Our project will address this
research gap, and in doing so will build an emerging multidisciplinary network, the Canadian Coalition
Against 2SLGBTQ+ Poverty (CCA2P). The research team is led by representatives from 2SLGBTQ+
community organizations and academic researchers from Canadian universities, and includes
community advocates and research trainees. Project activities will aim to a) support coalition-building
between academics, organizations and community members working on issues of 2SLGBTQ+ rights
and poverty, working to build a national multisectoral partnership; b) collaborate on communitydriven
research that examines 2SLGBTQ+ peoples’ experiences accessing social assistance in Ontario,
a community-identified research priority; c) meaningfully engage 2SLGBTQ+ people who identify as
having lived experience of poverty throughout research and coalition-building activities; and d)
collaborate on a funding proposal, informed by our preliminary data, to support national research and
partnership-building on this topic. By enabling a more fulsome understanding of 2SLGBTQ+ poverty
from diverse stakeholders, these partnership activities ultimately aim to address the economic and
associated health inequities currently experienced by 2SLGBTQ+ people in Canada.

Project Description:

Two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (2SLGBTQ+) populations in Canada experience
significantly worse health outcomes, relative to heterosexual and cis (non-trans) populations (Bauer &
Scheim, 2015; Brennan et al., 2010; Steele et al., 2009). Increasingly, scholars are recognizing that
poverty (broadly defined using indicators such as the low income cut-off) is a cause of poor health in
marginalized populations (Berkman et al., 2014), and scholars of 2SLGBTQ+ health note that
socioeconomic factors contribute to poor health outcomes for sexual and gender minority people as
well (Bostwick et al., 2014; Ross et al., 2016; Robinson 2017; Robinson et al., 2016). Despite
agreement that the relationship between poverty and poor health in 2SLGBTQ+ populations is worth
examining, few studies empirically substantiate this link, or reveal how it operates (Thomeer, 2015).

Experiences with social assistance (SA) have been identified as a possible link between poverty and
health in marginalized populations (Lightman et al., 2009; Smith-Carrier, 2017). In an Ontario study,
SA recipients were more likely than non-SA recipients in all income categories to report high stress,
along with 37 out of 39 poor health outcomes (Lightman et al., 2009). The authors suggest that
adverse physical and mental health among SA recipients is due to the stress this population
experiences in SA systems, which often stigmatize recipients and are under-resourced (Lightman et
al., 2009). SA recipients marginalized on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender, race, disability,
and other differences, may be more likely to experience stigma and discrimination and, by extension,
stress and poor health outcomes, as a result of their encounters with SA systems (Smith-Carrier,
2017).

In spite of associations between poverty and poor health in 2SLGBTQ+ populations (Bauer &
Scheim, 2015; Brennan et al., 2010; Steele et al., 2009), and the likely role of stressors associated with
accessing SA (Lightman et al., 2009; Smith-Carrier, 2017), no studies of 2SLGBTQ+ populations’
experiences with SA have been conducted. As a result of this research gap, the issues of 2SLGBTQ+
people in poverty, and the concerns of sexual and gender minority SA recipients in particular, are
often not considered in policy development and practice. Although not all 2SLGBTQ+ people living in
poverty will access SA, this subset of our community may be particularly vulnerable to adverse health
outcomes, given the stressors associated with poverty and accessing SA (Lightman et al., 2009).

To address this gap, the coalition will:

1. generate a preliminary evidence base by examining the experience of 2SLGBTQ+ people who access
SA across the life course in Ontario;
2. strengthen an emerging partnership among stakeholders currently addressing 2SLGBTQ+ poverty in
Ontario and across Canada, and build new connections within this area;
3. meaningfully engage 2SLGBTQ+ people who self-identify as having lived experience of poverty
throughout the research and coalition-building activities; and
4. collaborate on a funding proposal, informed by our preliminary data, to support future work
exploring the impact of poverty (defined broadly) on the health of 2SLGBTQ+ people in Ontario, and
in future stages of this work, Canada-wide.

These objectives respond to community needs articulated at a foundational agenda-setting
meeting of the Canadian Coalition Against 2SLGBTQ+ Poverty (CCA2P). CCA2P is a diverse and growing
group of community, academic, and service provider stakeholders committed to highlighting, reducing, and eliminating economic disparities associated with sexual orientation, gender identity,
and gender expression in Canada (Ross & Khanna for CCA2P, 2017). The proposed project would
represent CCA2P’s first research activities in support of this commitment.

Project Type:
Funded

Project Role:
Collaborator

Country 1:
Canada

Country 2:

Country 3:

Country 4:

Month
Year
Start Date:
Apr
2020
End Date:
Mar
2022

Funder:
University of Toronto - Connaught Community Partnership Research Program

Year Project Started:
2020

Collaborator:

Collaborator Institution:

Collaborator Role:

Funder
Amount
(e.g type 1000 for 1,000)
1
University of Toronto - Connaught Community Partnership Research Program
$49,990
2
3
4
5
6